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COVID-19

Weak box office is scaring Hollywood into delaying theater releases

Jasmine Garsd Sep 16, 2020
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Moviegoers watch a film at a reopened AMC theater in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, in August. While theaters are reopening, dragging box office numbers are spooking studios. Tom Cooper/Getty Images
COVID-19

Weak box office is scaring Hollywood into delaying theater releases

Jasmine Garsd Sep 16, 2020
Heard on:
Moviegoers watch a film at a reopened AMC theater in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, in August. While theaters are reopening, dragging box office numbers are spooking studios. Tom Cooper/Getty Images
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When the highly anticipated sci-fi film “Tenet” opened in theaters earlier this month, it was a kind of calculated risk that many say didn’t pay off.  

So far, “Tenet” has only made about $30 million domestically. And that’s spooking studios.

Hollywood got the message loud and clear, said Arun Sharma, a marketing professor at the University of Miami.

“The reaction now is to postpone any expected blockbusters to a later release date,” he said. That is why Warner Bro.s has postponed “Wonder Woman 1984.” The studio reportedly invested about $200 million in the sequel. Fans of the lasso-swinging superheroine are going to have to wait until Christmas to see it.

Now it’s rumored that “Black Widow” and the James Bond film “No Time To Die,” both due in November, will be postponed, too

A fall season with no tentpole Hollywood films is bad news for theaters. Professor Jason Squire at the University of Southern California said some might find it impossible to weather the storm.

“If it continues through the Holiday season … that’s a nine-month storm,” he said. “And this is really, really a serious serious event in the history of exhibition.”

That’s exacerbating tensions in Hollywood, which for decades has built audiences around shiny content. Lassoes! Car chases! Spies! Intergalactic battles! 

But for now, studios seem to be leaning toward playing it safe and putting the golden lasso away until winter.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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